Vahram Muradyan: Magazines in the Letterbox

Armenian ADC Member excels in editorial illustration.

ADC’s Illustration Month continues to impress, as even more artists who are also card-carrying ADC Members step into the spotlight and share their stories and their skills. This has proven to be one of our most popular themes, and we are excited to keep it going into February!

For the third day in a row we are reaching out beyond the United States to showcase a very talented ADC Member. This time around, we have an Armenian editorial illustrator who loves his coffee black and his desk with a view.


Yerevan, Armenia. (but based in Tartu, Estonia)



Just about every kid can draw, but not every kid is particularly gifted at it. Where did your childhood artistic inclinations come from?

Perhaps the beginning for me was piano classes and learning jazz improvisation. At some point I discovered my mom’s architecture and art bookshelf and dad’s rock and jazz tapes, my brother’s bubblegum wrapper collection, video games, my friend Tigran’s box of Legos and the CD shelf with endless booklets. Add in years of academic drawing classes, occasional Warner Bros. cartoons, MTV, video games and finally the internet. All of this and my parents’ careful guidance brought me to six years of architecture in university, simultaneous graphic design work in local agencies and drawing/painting in my bedroom by night.

When did you discover that “Hey, this could actually be a career”?

In 2011 I failed to answer my first New York Times Magazine assignment email because I was hungover after a birthday celebration. That moment made me realize it was time to get serious.

How would you describe your illustrative style? Do you fight against having a particular style, or do you embrace your style as your “brand”?

In editorial work I keep a steady concept in the core and grow visuals around it in a more or less constant style. Behind the scene, in personal work, there’s a lot of experimentation and craze with printmaking techniques, graphic styles, materials. Then if I get used to something, gain enough level of confidence, I’ll carefully use it in commercial work.

Walk us through your usual creative process.

Getting an assignment, reading the article or an outline, understanding my role and the art director’s motive for choosing me, understanding the publication’s context, page layout, overall tone, existing colors and researching the article further. If time allows, I’ll sleep on it and let my opinion ferment. Then I’ll get to sketching ideas, collecting reference visuals, editing concepts and choosing the best ones to show to the client, emails and discussions. Finally, when the concept idea is approved, I’ll start drawing the actual piece. If needed, I’ll look at it in the process together with the art director. When it’s done I’ll send in the hi-res files or GIFs.

Tools of the trade: do you have any specific pens, pencils or other instruments that you swear by?

I use Google Images a lot, my Wacom, a Macbook Pro, a phone, a few mechanical pencils, a Hahnemühle A4 sketchbook at the desk and small pocket notebooks to carry around, black coffee, a fine record and a window by the desk.

What is the most challenging thing about a career in illustration?

Keeping organized despite the spontaneous nature of the job; you have to deliver on time. That said, it’s also a challenge to not forget to get away from it all, sit back and take it easy.

“…it’s also a challenge to not forget to get away from it all, sit back and take it easy.”

Is there a particular project of yours of which you’re especially proud?

The latest is a visually challenging editorial on breastfeeding for the splendid Nautilus Magazine. We did it together with Len Small and Francesco Izzo. There was a specific problem to solve, and a very sentimental process. There was so much positive response from fellow parents.

I also have a new edition of Linocut plus silkscreen prints. There are few of those available in my store.

Cocktail party talk: how do you describe what you do to someone who isn’t in a creative field, and what’s the typical response you get from them?

I say I’m an illustrator for magazines and papers. If there’s further interest, I’ll describe my medium/style and clientele.

Which professional creatives do you look up to and why? 

Christoph Niemann’s hugging toothbrush and paste picture was a very important image for me, and still pops in my head at least twice a day; Stanley Donwood’s artwork for Radiohead’s “OK Computer”; Michel Gondry’s music videos; Stefan Sagmeister’s “Made You Look” and “Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far”; James Victore’s “Celebrate Columbus”, Jennifer Daniel’s “Creation of Adam”; everything Paul Sahre does; Matt Dorfman’s editorials; Nicholas Blechman’s “100% Evil”. These works had a tremendous impact on me. Steve Powers, Chip Kidd, Jeremyville, Neasden Control Centre, Geoff Mcfetridge, Mike Perry, Mark Pernice, Lenka Clayton, Brian Rea, Pablo Delcán, Tim Lahan, Jillian Tamaki, Javier Jaén Benavides, Ping Zhu;, Roman Muradov — I look at their work every day.

When the path gets too foggy, I’ll look at Saul Steinberg, Alan Fletcher, R.O. Blechman, Shigeo Fukuda, John Baldessari and Tibor Kalman.

At the end of the day, what do you love most about being an illustrator?

Mornings with a magazine in the letterbox and evenings with an assignment email.

Illustration Month continues throughout January and February, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!